Considering a Horse’s Quality of Life

An owner describes how she made the difficult decision to euthanize her “heart horse” based on his quality of life.

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By Lauren E. Gash

In the past, when a life-threatening or quality-of-life incident has occurred with one of my horses, I’ve gone down one of two avenues: surgery to fix the problem or euthanasia. But never had I been down this road with an eye condition, and I couldn’t have expected how it would pull at the heartstrings. 

Making the hardest, best decision for your partner is never easy, and I like to think I always put my horse’s interests first. Buttons was the most amazing partner, who taught me so much about riding and life. He was an accomplished three-star event horse who took me to many of my firsts and my triumphs overseas. At the age of 20, I retired him to be a confidence ride for some of my lower-­level students and then, later, the saint that would pack around my now-husband. 

In February 2015, Button’s eyes started to fail him and became his nemesis. The first was his left eye, which developed a thick cloud of edema (fluid swelling) starting in the lower quadrant and then progressing to the entire cornea in a matter of 48 hours. My veterinarian (Dr. Chris Newton of Rood & Riddle, in Lexington, Kentucky) and I started treatment with intravenous flunixin meglumine (Banamine) and dexamethasone twice daily as well as several eye ointments, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and dilating drugs administered multiple times a day

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The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care is an equine publication providing the latest news and information on the health, care, welfare, and management of all equids.

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